Photography has become disposable.
By Steve Huff
Yesterday I wrote about the decline of camera sales over the last few years. It’s real and it’s continuing, even when new models are announced and released. Why is this though? A few years ago we were all buying new cameras every 8-12 months! Well, saturation has a lot to do with it. Boredom another. Tech another. These days photography has become disposable in many ways. Let me explain…
When this website started long ago, photography was still exciting. We did not have thousands of photos being uploaded to a site called Instagram every minute. We didn’t have millions of photos being posted daily on facebook. We did not have 10,000 reviewers. It was still exciting to view beautiful photographs that were captured with skill and care and heck, some were even PRINTED with skill! I know some still print but you are in the extreme minority. In this post I will be speaking of what is happening in the majority, the bigger picture.
Digital cameras were still in their infancy with horrible focus back in 2008-2014, no EVF’s (or really really bad ones), and they were all unusable in low light as sensor tech was still in the early stages. This meant that anytime a new model came out we were EXCITED because it meant a real improvement to the things that mattered (focus, noise, EVF). So we waited for the new models like kids on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to bring us our haul of goodies.
It was always exciting to see the new releases from Sony, Leica, Olympus or whoever as it always meant our photo quality would take a step up. Dynamic range was steadily improving as was lens quality. We had reasons to upgrade often, and upgrade we did!
Today is quite different. Many camera/photo enthusiasts whom I knew back 10 years ago are now bored with new cameras. Bored with photography itself. We are bombarded daily with social media photos, and getting numb to the various model shots, landscape shots that influencers bombard us with every day. We have lost that excitement we used to have but back then there was no saturation at all. Back then we had maybe 6 big camera reviewers online. Today we have thousands all trying to cash in on a shrinking market.
Sales will keep declining due to saturation of cameras, of content, of reviewers, of well, everything because this leads to a sort of fatigue by the public. A fatigue of constant marketing of camera products, a fatigue of viewing photo after photo on social media where they all start to bend together and a fatigue of spending money on new camera models and lenses, only to realize later they weren’t as great as you thought or hoped they were. Maybe you realized your new camera did not improve your work compared to what you had before.
I believe Fatigue is leading to the disposable nature of photography today.
Yes, we have millions of photos uploaded daily by people all over the world but today we forget these photos in a nanosecond as it has all come down to views, likes and thumbs ups over truly appreciating a photo. Photos have a lifespan these days of about 1 second (videos maybe a few minutes) and most forget about it within a moment as they are on to the next. We feel we must scroll, like and view the teeny tiny images we see on instagram but we lost the appreciation for the craft and art of photography. Today, we put more effort into building our instagram page over creating art and images. With todays cameras doing everything for the photographer it truly takes no skill to capture a nice image, truly anyone today can be a great photographer. But todays market is not driven by art, or the act of taking the photo..composing, editing, etc. Nope, it’s about snapping a shot and instantly uploading to social media for some sort of “approval” or praise.
It’s a different place than just a few years ago, and with a constant bombardment of photos, videos, articles, reviews and content the general public are getting worn out, tired, fatigued. Photos have become nothing more than a vehicle to promote social media pages where we are judged based on how many like us or our photos. It’s strange really. We have become infatuated with popularity and likes over the actual art of photography itself. I mean, people are motivated to take photos to grow their following on social media. To get likes. To get views. Day after day. It’s all Disposable and means nothing.
Guess what? A smartphone works best for this as social media addiction will also take precedent over camera sales. Phones are the best tool for the social media job and with most photos these days (the bulk of them) being posted ONLY to social media then why would we want a $5k camera for this? Our phone does it quicker, easier and in many cases better! But phones and social media are just as addicting as cigarettes, alcohol and opioids these days. It’s bad for us as well, but due to the addiction, most defend their phones and social media use when confronted, as, it is an addiction.
Go anywhere today and you will see everyone staring at a phone, on facebook or instagram over interacting with each other in the flesh. We have become a slave to our phone, and due to this, the smartphone will continue to slaughter camera sales in the near future. It’s what we all have with us. It’s what we are addicted to. It’s easy, and it just works. No lenses are needed, and it fits in our pocket. It does video and photo, and also stores the images as well. It’s a computer, an organizer, a text messenger, a calculator, a calendar and oh, also a phone.
There is no way cameras can compete with these things that the phones do so well with which is why digital cameras are now a Niche market as I spoke of in yesterdays post. It’s also about fatigue, saturation, and social media/creator overload in addition to the smartphones. It seems everyone today is a “creator”. When kids are asked what they want to be when they grow up? The majority say “A YouTube Star”. That says it all, it’s like YouTube is the new Hollywood where thousands flock for fame and a very few hit it big.
You would think this alone would drive camera sales, as video is huge now. Well, it does..as social media drives camera sales these days, and an awful lot buy cameras so they can be a youtube reviewer! But this is not enough to sustain the industry, none of it, and hence, my point ; )